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Illuminating Goodness and Hope

After the winter solstice, the longest night has already passed. Every week the sun sets later, and daylight will gradually become more abundant. Similarly, as we walk together through this long, dark night of Covid, let’s remember this darkness will also pass. Slowly, but surely, the light within everyday life will gradually become more visible. In my weekly Zoom meditation classes, we've been working with meditations on light, as well as meditations that broaden the mind to illuminate good things, especially important during Covid's push towards difficulties. Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s “What’s Not Wrong” meditation, from Peace is Every Step, is a meditation that eases us into this healing practice. This meditation helps you notice when something is good, see beauty that is right in front of you, and even experience light itself. Think of this meditation as a balancing scale for your mind - where you can practice balancing out tendencies in the mind toward negativity and seeing “what’s wrong.” Thich Nhat Hanh observes that if you focus only on “what's wrong” that you “are inviting the painful seeds of sorrow to come up.” In order to make the most of this meditation, it’s important to understand this practice is neither a denial of difficulties, nor pretending there are none. Rather, it’s more about deliberately, and additionally, noticing even the smallest things that are good each day, and that cultivate hope. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “Awareness of the precious elements of happiness is in itself the practice of right mindfulness.” There are some suggestions below about ways to do this These simple, powerful meditations for noticing your “precious elements of happiness” – if done with wholehearted awareness – often involve experiencing everyday things that are right here and right now. “If we do so, seeds of peace, joy, and happiness will be planted in us, and become strong.”

"WHAT'S NOT WRONG MEDITATIONS" As you practice these throughout Winter and Spring, consider journaling or sharing with a friend or partner about what you are observing or learning. 1) DAYTIME/ OUTDOOR PRACTICE: Take a walk in your neighborhood during the Winter months. Specifically finding what’s beautiful and unique about the winter trees and flowers. Giving yourself permission to linger over how the sky and clouds move when viewed through a tree’s empty winter branches. 2) DUSK-EVENING / OUTDOOR PRACTICE: Get some cozy layers on and sit-outside during the evening, maybe just ten or fifteen minutes. If you’d like, take a cup of hot tea or coffee with you. Noticing how the the rapidly changing colors in the twilight sky and clouds dissolve and disappear into evening. Doing this without dwelling negatively on the sensations of cold or dark. 3) EVENING / INDOOR PRACTICE: Sitting in a favorite indoor spot with a candle or a fireplace. Without the lights on, observe how you are drawn to illumination, and notice where the illumination dances throughout the room. 4) MORNING: INSIDE or OUTSIDE: When you can, wake up before sunrise. Experience how darkness fades, and how the increasing light gradually reveals more things. Notice how color appears on things that looked dark before daybreak. Reflect on how there will be a unique appearance to the sunrise every day, and in every season.

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